Let’s start with a little self-examination. Think back to about ten minutes ago when we read our sermon text from Colossians 1. Here’s what I want you to ask yourself: “How much of that reading did I absorb while it was being read?” If I had to guess, your experience probably went a little like this. You heard, “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness,” (Colossians 1:13) and you appreciated that thought. It’s a nice one. The Father has indeed rescued us from the darkness of sin. But while you were thinking about that, I was already reading on, “…and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). Hopefully, your brain caught up there, and maybe even put those ideas together, that the Father took us from the dark, sinful kingdom of the world and brought us into his own. But while you were thinking about that, I was moving on again. Try and keep track of what comes next: “…in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him” (Colossians 1:14-16). Can you keep track of all of that in your mind? We’re only halfway through the lesson! If you’re like me, at some point your brain just can’t keep track of all of it. I could feel my mind go sort of numb as it tried to connect and understand all the ideas the apostle writes to us.
Paul could have written a paragraph about each of these ideas, so that as you hear them read, you can chew on each of them. He could have explained how they’re connected together. He could have given excellent illustrations so that it really sticks in your mind. But, he doesn’t. Instead, it’s like trying to drink out of a fire house. He just turns it on full blast and says, “Get ready for a drink.” And then, so much information is being poured into your mind about Jesus and who he is and what he has done that you can’t keep up with it. There’s too much of it and it’s coming way too fast. The apostle Paul is not dumb guy. He does this on purpose. He wants these ideas to overwhelm you. You can tell because the section that comes after our lesson is much slower. He knows exactly what he is doing. So, why? Why do you think he does that? Why does he ask you to drink from this firehose of information?
There’s are probably many reasons Paul did something like this, but here’s just one. As Christians we get used to Jesus. Don’t misunderstand me—I think that’s a good thing. I think that it is good that we are comfortable picturing Jesus, praying to him, hearing his Word preached, and so on. These are good things, and Jesus wants us to be comfortable with him. We get used to him. I certainly hope that you are. I hope the picture of the crucified Chris is something you can bring to mind. I hope you can picture the empty tomb in your mind. I hope you have an image of Jesus in your brain of him as the Good Shepherd. I hope that coming up for the Lord’s Supper is natural and easy for you. I hope that you have these customs, rituals and rites. It’s good to be used to Jesus.
But, every now and then, although we are used to him, we need to be reminded that Jesus is still someone that we cannot grasp or imagine with our mind. God is something completely otherly. It’s good for us, even if it’s just for one sermon, to remember that. You can think about it like your cell phone. My phone has a capacity of like 64 GBs. It cannot go past 64 GBs. At some point my phone will start telling me that it’s reach capacity, so I have to go in and delete something. Your brain is like that. There is only so much that can be stored in it. But, Jesus is infinite. We cannot grasp how huge, how immense, how great Jesus is. Jesus is infinite, but the way we think about him is not, and it can’t be. So in our minds, we have these images that hold as much of Jesus as we can, but that image will always be too small. That is why it’s good for us to be reminded about this, so that you do not begin to think that image of Jesus you have in your mind is the real Jesus. It isn’t. It may be what you are used to. It may be what you think about. But there is still more to Christ.
It is that exact realization that Paul wants you to have as you hear these words. And the truth is, even if we went through this lesson for a couple weeks, we would still walk away with tired brains overwhelmed by who Jesus is and how much he is. I can’t pack into a sermon everything that this section of the Bible contains. Instead, I want to help you do what the apostle is striving for. Why does he overwhelm you? He does it to remind you of the otherness of Jesus. But why does he do that? Well, it’s because you are used to him. You know Jesus. It’s why these first words are not that hard for you to grasp: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves” (Colossians 1:13). That’s a concept that you love. It’s beautiful to you. That beauty, that wonder is exactly what he is going for.
Take that image of Jesus that you have in your mind and let it expand. As we go on, try to take what Paul tells us about Jesus and add it to the picture you have of him (if you can). Hold on to as many details from this section as you can. For just a moment, let your mind be overwhelmed and frustrated that it can’t do it. But, then, when you reach that moment, accept your limitations. And then be amazed at King Jesus.
Paul tells us that Jesus has saved us from our sin. In him, we have redemption, and the forgiveness of sins. Do you remember what those words mean? Can you define redemption? It’s what Jesus did to buy us back from sin, death and the devil. He used his blood to redeem us. These three ideas of rescue from darkness, redemption through his blood, and the forgiveness of our sins are all wrapped together: “For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14).
Jesus was able to accomplish that redemption because he is not just a man, he is very God. So that in eternity, the Father begot the Son, his firstborn, before the world, before time. So that there has never been a time when Christ has not existed. He is without beginning or end, and yet still begotten by the Father. Then, through him, everything you can see was created. All of it—even those things he did not directly speak to into being attribute their own genesis to him. But, not only have they been created through him, but their entire purpose and being is wrapped up in him. Everything has been made for Jesus. Jesus is the reason that all things exist. Without him, nothing exists or could continue to exist. He holds it all together. Jesus is the reason there is something, rather than nothing. He was here long before all of it, he stands outside of it, and keeps everything together: “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:15-16).
Those are all very eldritch, ethereal thoughts, but that’s not where Christ stays. Instead, the Son of God from eternity invades space and time. He enters into his own creation and becomes part of it. All of it is through him, for him, and held together by him, but now he is a part of it. Christ becomes man. He does this glorious, unthinkable thing. He becomes one of us. God is a man, and as a man, he can die. He takes upon himself the sins of all people of all time, he suffers an infinity of hell for each of them, and then he dies. Not so that he can stay dead. But, just like he is the firstborn of all creation, he is also the firstborn of the dead. But he won’t be the only one. He gathers to himself a group of people, made from all nations of all time, who put their faith in him. Christ is the firstborn of the dead, but he isn’t the last: “And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy” (Colossians 1:18).
Jesus is true man and true God. Not part of each, but fully each. Within a man, it delighted God to have all of his fullness dwell. Everything that the nature of the Godhead is became one in Jesus the Christ. It was through him, and only through him, this one individual, that God was able to bring us peace. Only Jesus was man, so that he could take our sins and die our death, and only Jesus was God, so that he could do it perfectly and rise, fully vindicated by the Father. Through him, his cross, his blood, we have peace: “For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:19-20).
I don’t know at what point your brain said, “He’s going too fast,” or, “I can’t keep track of everything that’s going on.” If this was a normal sermon, that would be a bad thing, but here, it’s not. Because within the unworldly otherness of Christ our King lies room for wonder. That’s why Paul writes this section that way. By all means, go dig into this text. But right now in a sermon, the point is not that you catch and remember every little detail here. What matters is that it leaves you with a sense of wonder. Wonder at how glorious he is. How unequaled he is. How unrivaled. How far he is beyond our reason. That he is inexhaustible, immeasurable, unfathomable, eternal, immortal invisible, the only God. And despite all of that, he comes to save you. He becomes a human to rescue you from darkness and bring you into his kingdom. To redeem you. To forgive all your sins. Be amazed at King Jesus. Amen.